“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
“I’m having a little bit of the twisties,” Simone Biles told a waiting world on July 27. The Great of All Time (i.e., The GOAT) in Women’s Gymnastics was struggling to take off and land her super gymnastic moves. She has been soaring through the air since she was a young child and in the middle of final Olympic glory Simone admitted to the world that her mind and body were not in sync. For a listening world, this was unimaginable. For the 4’ 8” superstar this was terrifying.
Imagine sending your body into flight, defying the laws of gravity and soaring into air high above where no other human has flown in artist gymnastics and when you want to land, your mind won’t take the orders from your body. That is what “twisties” are. They are the lack of control between mind and body at the highest level of gymnastic competition.
I am glad she walked away before she ended up paralyzed or dead.
By owning her mental condition – the disconnection between body and mind – Simone Biles became The GOAT of Mental Health in all competitive sports. She demonstrated to the world that the stigma of mental health conditions must be defied and broken just like all of her acrobatic genius has defied gravity and she has broken every gymnastic record and achieved more than any other gymnast in history. She is brilliant and beautiful and courageous and strong. She is showing every girl and boy; every woman and man what is means to take care of yourself in the face of mental health conditions.
I always loved WATCHING her. Now I simply and clearly LOVE HER!
We have a gold medal champion in the world of mental health care! Her name is Simone Biles! She has set the bar high for each one of us to deal with our twisties, too.
Each of us can “own” what is challenging us and deal with it.
We can say, “I can’t preach today because I am battling depression and I cannot get up in the valley of the shadow of death to face a congregation.” We can say, “My child is mentally ill and I struggle each and every day to provide the love and care he needs (or she needs) to be balanced and stable.” We can say, “The loneliness and pain of isolation I have come to know in the pandemic is weighing me down. I can’t care for you before I deal with MY twisties, my mental health challenges, my broken and troubled self.”
We say, “I need to stop. I need help. I need you.”
Along with Isaiah, we can say, “I am waiting upon the Lord to renew my strength. I am waiting to fly again, to run and not be weary, to walk and not faint.” A long with Simone we can say, “I need to take a back seat, work on my mindfulness.”
We can say, “I am not doing well. I need to get healthy right now.”
Rev. Dr. Tim Ahrens
The Rev. Dr. Tim Ahrens is Senior Minister of The First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Columbus, Ohio where he has served since January 2000. Ordained in 1985, Tim is a lifelong member of the United Church of Christ.